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After handing over an application and going through a strict examination, Xena and her people were finally allowed into the port proper. They were given accommodations in what seemed to be a rushed building.
Although they used wood and stone bricks, Xena could still see the shoddy work of the natives. Compared to the grass huts next to it, however, this building seemed vastly superior.
‘A port that’s under construction?’ Xena recalled the market she’d just seen. It couldn’t even compare to the commercial street of a small town, at most the gathering of a pile of stalls. The items were only sold in clay jars, and trade was with barter without any basic currency. From her point of view, this was blasphemy towards her goddess!
“These darned natives. How lazy and filthy they are!” A few attendants complained, but Xena did not think the same way. Although they’d only been in contact for a short time, she had seen how energetic Debanks Island was.
‘Goddess! Although these natives are base and weak, all their jewellery is made of gold… If this industry can be developed…’ Grasping an opportunity to make more gold was instinctual to the priests of the Goddess of Wealth.
‘I never thought this expedition would have such great harvests. However, the ocean currents in this sea region are far too dangerous…’ Xena frowned inside.
Dinner was the natives’ version of curry rice. They used banana leaves as plates, and the spice was astounding. After enjoying the sumptuous dinner, Xena summoned high-ranked thief to her room.
A golden lustre filled the room. Although Xena didn’t believe the natives could be all that powerful, she was still very cautious.
“How is it? Have you made any discoveries?” Xena looked at the tall, slender figure in front of her that seemed to want to disappear into the shadows.
“How could we get so much information in a day? Thankfully for the blessings of our goddess, the natives didn’t seem to know how to keep secrets. We managed to get some intel through their legends and songs…” The thief’s voice was hoarse, like he was a bald eagle.
“Speak.” She frowned.
“Firstly… This place used to be called the Sakartes Empire, but a war occurred recently. Fair-skinned godly beings came from the west and defeated them, destroying their empire. That’s the direction of the mainland…
“There’s something more surprising. There seemed to be very few of those ‘fair-skinned godly beings,’ numbering less than twenty thousand total!” the thief supplied.
“Twenty thousand?” Xena was caught between laughter and tears, “But the Scarlet Tigers have about that number of people… An empire conquered by twenty thousand people… Haha…”
She looked pleased as punch, thinking the Sakartes Empire to just be some large native tribe.
“If you knew the true might of the native empire, you definitely wouldn’t be laughing now.” The thief interrupted her coldly.
“What’s their population?” Upon hearing how serious he sounded, Xena reacted appropriately.
“Based on what they said, it would take fifty sunsets to walk from the beginning of the empire to the end. Each city has numerous tribes within, and the empire was also protected by the Sun God who governed everything, Akaban!”
The thief now looked solemn, “A conservative estimate puts the empire’s population between five hundred thousand to a million. Their outer borders were as extensive as a kingdom’s, and they were protected by a false god!”
“To be able to defeat such a powerful empire with less than twenty thousand pirates… Goodness! It would be difficult to do so even if they were five hundred thousand pigs…” Xena exclaimed, shocked.
“Exactly! What I’m going to say next is key.” The thief now sounded slightly emotional, trembling from fear, “Remember the holy water we were sprayed with when we first got onshore?”
“That’s just water with some sort of potion. It isn’t holy water!” Xena called to attention. This was rather important when it came to religion. She would never admit to being blessed by another god, unless she was sure she wanted to betray Waukeen.
“Alright… That potion…” The thief quickly realised he had misspoken, and immediately corrected himself.
“There seemed to be a tremendous plague at the beginning of the war. Large batches of natives died, and the Winged Serpent descended suddenly, possessing the abilities to heal them. They gave the natives the holy water…”
“Winged Serpent?” Xena quickly thought of the Goddess of Wealth’s divine orders, as well as how she was required to look into the Giant Serpent Church.
“Yes. The ‘holy water’ has astounding healing abilities, and was exceptionally effective against the plague. These fair-skinned beings were seen as heroes sent down by the heavens to save them, and are supported on a large scale. That’s how they defeated the original Sakartes Empire…”
“Is that so…” Xena looked down, clearly deep in thought. She then turned to the thief, sounding serious, “Do you think… That plague has anything to do with the Plague Mistress?”
“It shouldn’t. I’ve fought the priests of her church. While she can spread sickness, it shouldn’t be so infectious… Also, her priests only know how to kill others and not save them…” The thief muttered bluntly in answer.
“Good then… Get more intel, especially related to the Giant Serpent Church…” Xena gave a long sigh and sent the thief away, staring at the oil lamp on the table as she muttered to herself resolutely.
“The Scarlet Tigers, the legendary wizard of the Faulen Family, and the winged serpent capable of healing sickness… What is the relationship between the three of them?” At the beginning, she’d thought this was just a practical joke on Leylin’s side. However, by the looks of it it seemed impossible.
“Mistress. Please give me guidance!” Xena gripped the holy crest in the palm of her hand, and began to pray piously. A golden lustre enveloped the entire room, making it look misty.
“So it’s the Goddess of Wealth… I’ve had the greatest amount of contact with them. Port Venus has Waukeen’s Church, so it’s natural for them to have recorded my aura…” Leylin wasn’t all that surprised. After all, it was necessary for Debanks Island to interact with the outside world.
Debanks Island had far too much work to be done, and trade would greatly help recover its vitality. It was much better for them to be discovered by Waukeen than by Helm. After all, the goddess was neutral in alignment.
With the plentiful resources from Debanks Island, and the Faulen Empire as a whole having so many consumers, Leylin had no doubt the gold priests would be greatly attracted. However, it wasn’t worth Xena risking her life.
The only thing that could spur a gold bishop on was the Goddess of Wealth, Waukeen!
“No matter what she expects, Debanks Island can definitely support itself. There’s no need to fear any blockades or threats… Of course, if they can be enticed and we can get support from the trade network on the mainland, it would be great…”
Leylin moved his arms, “Send down the order. Receive them with the most politeness possible, and send them gold and cornelian-embedded utensils. Cover the floors with fleece, and welcome her to my palace…”
Leylin wasn’t just the ruler of a new empire. He was also its patron god, so his orders were carried out without any hesitation. Xena and her people obtained large amounts of gifts from the natives, and seemed to be dazzled by their wealth. They made multiple stops along the way, before reaching Faulen City which was being rebuilt.
This had been the Sakartes Empire’s capital. The roads and houses were already very spacious, and were now being expanded further. The vast driveways could even let a dozen horses walk side by side and speed along.
“The planning of this imperial city… The conqueror’s ambition is very obvious…” Xena mentioned Leylin indirectly. In the natives’ eyes, he was someone who represented blood and massacre, but she saw more than that. Because of the natives’ minimal comprehension and the communication gap, she still had no idea who he was. Still, she was certain that he was extremely courageous, with great might and possibly more slyness than a devil.
The huge disparity and powerlessness she felt caused Xena to sigh deeply. If not for the light of the goddess supporting her, she would have long since escaped from Debanks Island.
“Information on the Giant Serpent Church is very vague, but the priests definitely have divine spells. The person behind the Giant Serpent Church should at the very least be a false god…” Anything that had to do with gods would be a source of trouble. Xena could feel an intense headache coming on.
“We’re here! This is our emperor’s palace. Only you are allowed to enter!” Elite devil hunters blocked the rest of the emissaries at the splendid golden entrance to the palace.
As the bodyguards that would guard Leylin, these natives were definitely loyal. Their strength was also first rate, and they could even be considered heroes. Their potential power was somewthing that left even Xena’s heart thumping in fear.
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